Bringing Yoga to Diverse Populations

A lot of folks hold strong stereotypes when they hear I’m a yoga instructor. They assume I work at a studio and teach asana based yoga classes. When I clarify, saying I’m a trauma-sensitive yoga instructor, many people are confused. The conversation usually goes one of two ways, I describe what trauma-sensitive yoga is in detail or I’m asked what the difference is between what I do and what “mainstream” yoga is. When I further describe sites I work at, such as addiction treatment programs and jail programs, it seems even more confusing for some. I get asked why these populations need yoga, why people who have “done something wrong” need it.

Instead of typing out a clarifying blog post, I’m going to let me own words speak for themselves. Here’s a recent interview I did for the Beyond Theory podcast, a podcast for The Meadows Behavioral Health.

Beyond Theory Podcast | S1 E12: Aditi Desai on Bringing Yoga to Diverse Populations

Check it out and let me know what you think! I hope this clarifies a lot of what I do and also what yoga can do for the world.

Yoga as Therapy

Medicine is full of options for treatments. Medications, physical therapy, talk therapy, and many others…these are all used to assist in resolving ailments of all varieties. Some of these therapies come with many side effects, leading to more therapeutic interventions.

Yoga seems an unlikely option to many. Yoga as therapy is often thought of as a supplement to physical therapy, but it is so much more. Yoga therapy does more that provide physical benefits. It combines the mental health benefits with the physical, allowing individuals to heal in a more complete manner.

Yoga can help with the following ailments:

-Chronic Pain


-Physical Injury Rehabilitation




Yoga Therapy is now a certified program, resulting in a certification allowing practitioners to provide therapeutic yoga in various settings. From hospitals to rehabilitation centers, many medical companies are now looking to yoga therapy for long term healing and benefits. Yoga therapy has the power to reduce readmission in hospitals as well as reduce relapse in addiction treatment. Yoga therapy can be catered to any ailment, physical or otherwise. Ultimately, yoga therapy is a great addition to any treatment plan.

Yoga for 12 Step Recovery

Addiction has gotten a lot of attention recently, as the Surgeon General and other political figures have put a spotlight on how addiction does not discriminate, how any individual can become addicted to substances. Recent deaths, including that of Prince, have also brought addiction to the public’s attention, calling into question medical practices for dealing with pain.

Some addictions do begin with a truly well-meaning prescription for pain, whether it is pain from an injury or pain from surgery. Other addictions begin with experimentation or boredom.

Regardless of how it begins, addiction has the power to ruin anyone’s life. BUT, with treatment and support, one can break through the bonds of addiction and come out on the side of recovery, come through with the tools necessary to rebuild a potentially shattered life.

Many of these tools are scientifically based. Treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, medication assisted treatment, and 12-step programs have all been scientifically proven to have results in improving the quality of life for those in recovery. These evidence based practices have truly been life changing for many.

A relatively new supplemental treatment is also making waves in the recovery arena. Yoga of 12 Step Recovery (Y12SR) is a combined group meeting and yoga practice session using the tools of the 12 Step method combined with the tools of yoga to help individuals face their addictions as well as the behaviors and thoughts which may have led to the addictive behavior. Guided by the theme “the issues live in the tissues”, this methodology uses the physical practice to help release underlying trauma and thoughts, ingrained in the individual’s core which may have resulted in addiction. Each Y12SR meeting combines the principles of asanas (yoga postures), pranayama (yogic breath), and meditation. The meetings also include a group sharing portion.

Y12SR is open to everyone. As the founder, Nikki Myers, puts it, “all A’s are welcome, meaning all asses are welcome”. This includes anyone suffering from addiction, whether its substance, behavior, or a combination, or anyone affected by addiction.

Y12SR meetings are being held all over the world. They take place in yoga studios, churches, community centers, and treatment facilities. The organization is moving towards becoming evidence based, meaning research is being done to show its efficacy. Overall, Y12SR is taking off.

With addiction at such high levels in the U.S. alone, I truly believe we can use all the treatment methods we have available to us.

For more information on Y12SR and to find a meeting near you, check out their website:


*Please note, Y12SR is not a substitute for 12-Step Meetings or any other form of addiction treatment, it is meant to be used as a supplement to those treatments.